YouTube's video voter project would violate Kentucky law

ralessi@herald-leader.comOctober 18, 2008 

Kentucky election officials are scrambling to get out the message that a national YouTube project with PBS that encourages people to video themselves voting on Nov. 4 would be illegal in this state.

The "Video Your Vote" project targets first-time voters, asking them to record their full voting experience on Nov. 4, including casting their ballot.

But Kentucky law forbids people from bringing cameras and recording devices into polling places. Secretary of State Trey Grayson said his fear is that if they try it in Kentucky, their video for posterity would say, "Here's me casting my first vote, and I broke the law."

Grayson said Friday that voters should be encouraged to record a video diary about the experience at the polls after they're away from their voting precinct — at least 300 feet away. Those caught recording inside a polling place could be slapped with a misdemeanor.

"I think it's a great use of technology to record that for posterity," he said. "I like that part of the program. But it's like they came up with the idea of recording your vote without thinking of the consequences."

Grayson has cut his own YouTube-based public service announcement to be posted on the popular video sharing Web site on Monday.

"On the YouTube Web site are the words, 'Share your election experience with the world.' Let me be the first to encourage you to do so," Grayson says in his video clip. "However you should wait until you leave the voting area."

YouTube announced the project, a joint venture with PBS, on Wednesday.

"In an effort to see the events of Election Day unfold, YouTube and PBS are teaming up and asking you to video your vote," said Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, in an introductory video to project. "We're looking for videos that document the excitement, energy and last-second campaigning on Nov. 4 in addition to the issues you find at voting places, like long lines, broken machines and any other roadblocks to casting a ballot."

Woodruff said on the video that the best clips could be featured in PBS's Election Night coverage.

YouTube didn't return a request for comment about the project's conflict with Kentucky law.

Kentucky's legislature outlawed video recording or using cell phones or cameras in the voting places in 2005 to avoid intimidating other voters.

Georgia and Florida also bar recording in polling places.

Kay Stimson, spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State, said the group hasn't taken a position on the "Video Your Vote" project.

"We talked to YouTube and PBS; they provided us some information on the project when it launched Wednesday and we sent that to our members," Stimson said.

Grayson said that once his office realized the project's instructions conflicted with state law, it started taking steps to reach younger voters and those tech-savvy Kentuckians who might be most likely to participate. Grayson's video message will be sent to college campuses, and his office may advertise on social networking Web sites, such as Facebook.

The dust-up over YouTube's video project also comes during an especially busy campaign season that has forced election officials to counter misleading or false chain e-mails.

For instance, several e-mails have circulated that claim voters who show up to the polls wearing T-shirts, buttons or other campaign garb for their favorite candidates will be turned away and not allowed to vote.

That's not true. Poll workers are being instructed not to turn away any eligible voters.

"Voters may not be forced to leave the polling place because they are wearing campaign material until being given a chance to cast a ballot," said a Sept. 24 memo from Sarah Ball Johnson, executive director.

Even though people wearing campaign paraphernalia will be allowed to vote, they could still be cited for a Class A misdemeanor. Wearing campaign garb can be considered "electioneering," which is not allowed within 300 feet of voting precincts.

Another e-mail says people who want to vote for all candidates of one party, known as straight-ticket voting, must also vote separately for their preferred presidential candidate, too.

That's not necessary, Grayson said. Pulling the straight ticket does include the presidential candidate. But if someone pulls the straight ticket and votes in the presidential race as well, that vote will still count, he said.

And if someone else, for instance, selects the straight ticket vote for all Republicans but picks a Democratic candidate in one specific race, that vote will be recorded for the Democrat and the rest will be counted for the GOP candidates, Grayson said.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service